Bill Farquharson, president of Aspire For in Boston is one crafty guy. His recent article in Printing Impressions on “The Sales Challenge – A Tale of Two Price Objections” is a simple, brilliant take on the gamesmanship between buyers and sellers using his personal negotiations with Wall Street Journal and Sirius Radio as object lessons. The lessons seem particularly apt in the print industry where printers seem to be negotiating with themselves half the time. Most salespeople have lost faith that they can win business on the merits of their service without giving in to client bullying.
My own tales of price objections could fill a book, from print buyers who have pre-agreed signals for storming out of the conference room during contract negotiations to print service providers who say that they “know” they are not getting the best price from their vendor and insist on “the best price.” In many cases they are taught these tactics in “negotiating seminars” or “influence training.”
In a business of shrinking margins, salespeople believe that they can never come to the table with their actual best price because the buyer won’t feel satisfied unless they have negotiated a discount. Some actually get in the situation where they are “losing on the units but will make it up in volume.” Ouch! It’s not for nothing that Bill calls this game “Holy crap are you people stupid or what?”
Gamesmanship in price negotiations is a no-win situation for the printer and it’s driving the industry into the ground. Ironically, it generally doesn’t work out well for the buyer either. Buyers are faced with their vendors being acquired or worse, going out of business because they can’t operate with the margins they are living with. Or, they stay in business but, they can no longer maintain the level of support or make the regular upgrades in processes and technology that made them good business partners in the first place. This in turn affects the buyer and eventually even the buyer’s customers.
So, in Bill’s example, we want to all strive to be The Journal and not Sirius Radio. Pricing for value and having the will to walk away from bad-faith negotiations is good business and feels really good too. I’ve developed some of my best clients by being willing to walk away. As George Michael sang in his 1987 pop classic, “You just gotta’ have faith-a, faith-a, faith.”